By Zach Clark
If you are serving in a Christian school or ministry, it is our firm belief that now is the time to take massive action to grow significant giving that moves you forward.
Americans are at a profound moment in our economic history. At the time of this writing, we are experiencing the second longest running bull market of all time, when share prices are still rising overall, and buying is still being encouraged. In turn, this is directly leading investors, your potential donors, to feel a sense of opportunity and urgency in finding and giving to deserving, impactful organizations. Will they choose your ministry or organization?
A great deal of this depends on you and your intentional efforts to help givers understand your vision, plan, and the steps you are seeking to take with their support. But to move forward, we must identify some of the assumptions that hold us back. Let me explain.
Despite this historic and massive build-up of wealth, we see many leaders in faith-based organizations continue to struggle with feeling overwhelmed, short on resources, and concerned about the potential giving in their community. In short, they feel very limited in a time of remarkable abundance.
A lack of resources is simply not your problem at this time. There are billions of dollars being given, and remarkably, many billions are currently set aside in a relatively new philanthropic giving tool known as donor-advised funds. Perhaps what we perceive to be a scarcity of funds available for our ministry is actually a lack of inspiring opportunities for the giver to give generously.
A donor-advised fund is a relatively new invention in the financial landscape that benefits all nonprofit organizations. Think of it as a simple and low-cost personal foundation a generous person can establish with the stroke of a pen. From a donor-advised fund, a giver can direct gifts or “grants” to nonprofit organizations they choose.
An individual makes gifts through the year to their donor-advised fund and takes a tax deduction in the year these gifts are made, just as you would if you gave to any nonprofit ministry, organization, or church. The dollars are no longer theirs, but they retain some control over how they are invested, and then they can advise or direct these funds to organizations at any time in the future. In the meantime, while the donor is deciding when and where to direct these gifts, they can be invested in a mutual fund or other investment vehicle and actually grow.
According to the Wall Street Journal in 2017: “... Assets held by such funds have exploded. Nearly 270,000 individual DAF accounts (including 10% of our firm’s clients) now hold close to $80 billion in assets with the average account at about $235,000, according to data for 2015 from the National Philanthropic Trust. But of the $22 billion added to DAFs in 2015, less than $15 billion was paid out to charities. So this stash-in-waiting for America’s charities will soon top $100 billion.”
Did you catch that? Currently, in 2019, this amount now exceeds over 110 billion dollars that have been set aside for giving to nonprofit organizations. Keep in mind that donors have already taken a deduction on these dollars; in a sense, they have been “given.” However, they have yet to be directed by donors to organizations that can make the most of it.
My point here is not to applaud or criticize the concept of donor-advised funds but to help you change your perspective. From both a spiritual and financial perspective, there is not a lack of resources available for the work of your ministry! Instead, what you may indeed lack is the clarity of purpose, drive, skills, discipline, and story to help generous givers understand that they will see a greater return on their investment by giving these dollars to impact the lives of young people who are developing a biblical worldview.
Another perspective we would share is that more than half of all money donated to anything in 2018 came from individuals for religious or educational causes. Individuals are giving generously, but they are overwhelmed with choices. This leads to limited awareness of what impactful ministries, like yours, can accomplish with their help and gifts.
It is vital for you to take action now. Even though we are feeling the current benefits of a long term boom, like all things that rise, a downturn will inevitably come. I can promise you, with total certainty, it’s coming. The challenge is that no one ever knows when.
It might be helpful for you to ask yourself this painful question: “Do I want to figure out how to allocate a 30% increase in revenue due to a growth in giving in the next year, or do I want to wait until the next downturn and problem solve how to absorb a 30% loss of giving, enrollment, or other revenues?”
Imagine a 30% loss of giving, involvement, volunteerism, staff, and your total budget! How would you react? How would you use your time in that sort of crisis? Who would you meet with? Who would you ask for help from? Who would you need to get involved? Why not apply that level of diligence, focus, and energy now while the resources are available and at work in our world?
God knows the plans He has for you, and they are plans for good! So, it’s time to stop being overwhelmed with the busyness of today and the emotions of scarce resources and to move forward with boldness.
Boldly moving forward requires you to ask yourself a few simple questions:
Do I have a God-given vision? Am I called to this work?
Does God promise to provide what is needed for the work He gives me to do?
What is truly holding me back or causing me to delay in leading people to give significantly?
Let’s get started!
Zach Clark is the founder of Development & Leadership Coaching, a non-traditional service approach helping leaders grow and build a culture of generosity. Beginning at twenty years of age, Zach’s expertise and skills were honed as a development and leadership consultant serving hundreds of Christian schools, churches, and nonprofit ministry organizations around the country. Zach has a dynamic and energetic teaching style that makes him a much sought-after public speaker. He is a member of the John Maxwell Team, the world’s leading leadership development organization, and is a John Maxwell Certified Coach, Trainer, and Speaker.